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Fort Nelson

Gunpowder technology

Geoff Smith
17th March 2021 - 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

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Gunpowder, a mixture of three simple components, had an enormous influence on the development of the post-classical world. It is now generally accepted that it originated in the east but how it came about has long been a subject of speculation.

Given that only a limited range of proportions result in a noteworthy reaction, and that the major component was both rare and expensive, why did they come together? Classical images of monks blowing up their mortars do not stand critical examination. This presentation offers a credible route whereby the mix could have evolved.

The development of gunpowder technology is traced from sourcing the ingredients and the earliest crude mixture to the fully developed industry of the 19th century still in use today.

Geoff Smith will conclude his talk with an overview of some of the less well-known – and perhaps surprising – uses of gunpowder throughout history.

Tickets cost £5 and include light refreshments.


From 18 March 2020 our museums in Leeds and at Fort Nelson will be closed to visitors until further notice.